Skip to content | Skip to document navigation

Research Guides

Good British Stock: Child and Youth Migration to Australia

Fairbridge Farm Schools

Image 3: Learning domestic science on the Fairbridge Farm School.

Image 3: Learning domestic science on the Fairbridge Farm School.
NAA: A445, 133/2/64 TB527
Enlarge image - View image gallery

Kingsley Fairbridge was born in 1885 at Grahamstown, Cape Colony in South Africa. His father was a surveyor, a position which required constant travelling, and so the family was regularly on the move, as a result of which the boy, Kingsley, had little formal education. Moreover he contracted malaria as a child in Mashonaland and this was behind the chronic health problems he suffered and which were to lead to his early and untimely death in 1924 at the early age of thirty-nine.

Fairbridge grew to manhood as the British Empire was at the apogee of its power. He had met Cecil Rhodes and was imbued totally with his 'God, King, Country and Empire' ethos. His 'vision splendid', as he called it, commenced in 1897 when at the age of twelve he was working at his father's Gold Belt property in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) as a surveyor's assistant. It was a remote spot and Kingsley struggled with hunger, loneliness and lack of expertise as a surveyor. As he was working on the veldt one day, alone but for a native assistant, climbing in the steep and slippery hills, he looked into the deep valleys where the grass was six feet high and wished that he could see a farm. While half-starved and miserable, the vision came to him. Some day he would bring farmers here and they would prosper.

In 1903, at the age of seventeen, Kingsley was sent to England to visit and stay with his grandmother. He loved life in the rural south-east, but was less impressed with London. He had imagined a mighty imperial capital, the streets alive with serious-minded citizens, but in its East End he was distressed to see the streets filled with poor children, grubby and exhausted from lack of food and fresh air. He saw workhouses filled with abandoned children, orphanages bursting at the seams, and the overall waste of young lives not able to reach their potential. His vision grew.

However, the young idealist had received little formal education. He wanted to go to Oxford and so had to go to a 'crammer' to prepare for the entrance examinations. He failed twice, succeeding on the third attempt and entered Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 1908 to study forestry. With a bright, extroverted personality, some experience of life and good sporting and social skills, Fairbridge loved Oxford and made numerous friends among influential people. On 19 October 1909, he outlined his vision to a meeting of 49 of his fellow Rhodes Scholars at the Colonial Club. His enthusiasm was infectious; all present became foundation members of the Child Emigration Society, later known as the Fairbridge Farm Schools, incorporated almost immediately at Oxford that same year.

Kingsley wanted to see deprived children 'shedding the bondage of bitter circumstances and stretching their legs and minds amid the thousand interests of a farm'. He aimed to provide children with a sense of self-worth, and the training and skills necessary for their future in the sparsely populated rural areas of the British Empire – farming the imperial frontier. In Oxford, he met Ruby Whitmore, a nurse. She became in succession his secretary, wife and biographer, the last after Fairbridge's early death.

Image 4: Learning blacksmithing on the Fairbridge Farm School.

Image 4: Learning blacksmithing on the Fairbridge Farm School.
NAA: A445, 133/2/64 TB526
Enlarge image - View image gallery

In 1911, Fairbridge met the Premier of Western Australia who was in London for the coronation of King George V. He was offered land near Perth on which to commence his social experiment, and so in January 1913 a party of 13 children arrived at Fremantle from England and took up residence in a primitive homestead on a run-down farm located between the townships of Pinjarra and Coolup, about 86 kilometres south-east of Perth. A few months later, 24 more children arrived and the ensuing years saw a desperate struggle for survival as World War I separated Fairbridge from his Oxford support base and diverted attentions elsewhere.

When the war ended in 1918, Kingsley went to London (1919–20) to rekindle enthusiasm and seek British Government support. Western Australia gave him a living allowance and an office in the Agent-General's building. His arrival was opportune as immigration was re-commencing, imperial unity was in vogue, and convinced imperialists such as Lord Milner and L S Amery were dominant at the Colonial Office. Fairbridge was at last 'preaching to the converted'. Amery was to call the Fairbridge scheme 'the finest institution for human regeneration that has ever existed'.

Under the Empire Settlement Act, the Overseas Development Board granted Fairbridge a substantial subsidy to purchase a new and better 3 200 acre property near Pinjarra and develop its facilities. The Commonwealth and State governments each promised five shillings per week per child, and there were private donations and contributions from the Rhodes Trust. Barnardo's Homes cooperated with Fairbridge in sending him suitable children, and the farm school was intended to take 300 youngsters at a time. By 1924, cottage homes for 200 had been built, a school for their education was provided and staffed by the Western Australian Government and success seemed assured.

However, Kingsley did not live to see his vision ('child rescue at home, abroad, migration within the Empire') fully realised; he died on 19 July 1924. Under his successors, the Fairbridge system matured: small group homes under cottage mothers; primary education at the local state school until 14; and one year to 18 months' training in farm work followed by placement in first jobs, with boys as farm labourers and girls as domestic servants.

In recounting so briefly the Fairbridge story, the emphasis has been on the ideal, as Kingsley Fairbridge was a man of high ideals. However, the all-too-human entered – as with so many attempts at social engineering. The children were deprived and the plan was drastic – to take urban slum children from the old world and turn them into farmers in a vastly different environment. A few prospered, many did satisfactorily and there were failures. Staffing was always a problem, the work demanding, the remuneration basic, and as a result, management could rarely be too exacting when employing cottage mothers, whose abilities and dispositions varied widely. This became exceptionally so during the war years when Fairbridge, Pinjarra experienced a 'time of troubles'.

The vocation norm – girls to domestic service, boys to farms – became anachronistic even during the 1930s. Yet Fairbridge management clung to this principle until after World War II. There were tensions between Fairbridge, Western Australia and the parent body in London – also unresolved until well after the war. However, the Fairbridge mystique remained strong and the ideal still inspired. A second Fairbridge Farm school was opened at Molong, near Orange NSW in 1937 and a third – on Fairbridge lines – was established at Glenmore, via Bacchus Marsh, Victoria at around the same time, the Lady Northcote Farm School. For many, Fairbridge was the 'Eton' of orphanages; the farm school model at its best.

After World War II, the Fairbridge schools received many boys and girls in the last phase of child migration, but by even the early 1950s, their management could see that 'the writing was on the wall' for the farm school movement. Fewer children were available every year. In view of this situation, Fairbridge experimented with the so-called 'One Parent' and 'Two Parent' schemes to widen their catchment pool.

In the former case, a single parent, usually a widow or unmarried mother, permitted her children to enter a Fairbridge home intending to follow them to Australia in due course, settle herself and re-establish the family. In the 'Two Parent' variation, Fairbridge assisted a British family who had too many children to qualify for normal assisted passage by taking the children until the parents had satisfactorily migrated and become settled in Australia. Small Fairbridge family homes were established at Tresca near Adelaide and at Hagley near Launceston, Tasmania and this variation of child migration survived until the early 1970s.

However, the rapidly changing times had made any scheme of child migration anachronistic. Fairbridge – by adapting – remained in the field longer than other child migration bodies, but social trends could be resisted only for so long. The end came in 1973.

There are numerous files on every aspect of the Fairbridge story, reflecting its central importance in child migration to Australia. The coverage is comprehensive with much material of interest to family historians, former residents, as well as to academic historians.

Series: A1
Quantity: 337.14 metres
Recorded by: 1916–28: Department of Home and Territories (CA 15)
Fairbridge Farm School. Immigration of British Orphan Children, 1917–18 [10 folios]
This contains a letter dated November 1917 from the founder of the Fairbridge Farm School, Kingsley Fairbridge, to Prime Minister W M Hughes requesting passages for parties of around twenty-four children under supervision on transports and for Government assistance. The Secretary of the Department refers to the idea as 'splendid' in theory, but there are many practical difficulties. All vessels were under the control of the Imperial Parliament. The correspondence includes a memorandum on the school and associated internal letters. The advice was to apply to the Ministry of Shipping in London as no suitable transports were available and no assistance could be given. Kingsley was himself in the UK recruiting and seeking £25,000 to continue his scheme. A 1919 press cutting from the Portsmouth Times on the school and its founder is also included.
A1, 1918/2799
Series: CP103/11
Quantity: 14.58 metres
Recorded by: 1921–32: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Migration (agreement between the Secretary of State and the Child Immigration Society), 1923 [30 pages]

This contains five copies – and nothing else – of the agreement with the Child Emigration Society/Fairbridge – 15 August 1923. The agreement is along the following lines:

Whereas the Society has established a Fairbridge School at Pinjarra in Western Australia (hereinafter called the 'Farm') for the purpose of training children of the poorer classes from the UK for settlement in the country districts of Australia; And whereas under the Empire Settlement Act, 1922; And whereas the Farm can accommodate at present only about 74 children and the Secretary of State and the Society are desirous of carrying out a scheme… for enlarging the Farm so as to provide accommodation for a total number of 200 children and for the maintenance of a certain number of the children during the period of five years.
CP103/11, 388
Series: A436
Quantity: 5.04 metres
Recorded by: 1945: Department of the Interior (II) (CA 31); 1945–50: Department of Immigration (CA 51)
Fairbridge Farm School. File 1, 1921–28 [263 pages]
This file contains press cuttings, photographs, notes, Hansard extracts, and letters to the Prime Minister, the Commonwealth Superintendent of Immigration, the Director of the Commonwealth Immigration Office, the Governor-General, the Development and Migration Commission, and members of Parliament, on the history, development and work of the Fairbridge Farm School and the Child Emigration Society, in particular the question of Government contributions, together with various replies. The file includes details of subsidy payments, expenditure, ministerial memoranda, resolutions and notes of deputations in support of the Farm Schools, copies of agreements with Federal and State Governments, and a 1928 report by T H Garrett on the Child Emigration Society and the Children's Farm School Immigration Society of Western Australia. A 1926 statement from the Child Immigration Society of Western Australia to the Minister for Migration requesting a variation in the agreement includes extracts from letters of employers of Fairbridge youth.
A436, 1946/5/597 part 1A
Fairbridge Farm School. File 1, 1921–31 A436, 1946/5/597 part 1B
Fairbridge Farm School. File 1, 1927–28 [c.200 pages]

The context is the renewal of the agreements between Fairbridge and the British and Australian Governments for maintenance of child migrants at the farm school. The first four folios are Mr T E Sedgwick's 'Notes on the Kingsley Fairbridge Training Farm, Pinjarrah (sic) Western Australia', c.1927 in which he records his impressions of a '22-hour visit' to the facility:

The outstanding impression of a short visit was the happy and healthy appearance of the children and the absence of any institutional character.

There is correspondence which shows that officers in the Immigration Section, and the later Development and Immigration Commission (Melbourne) had opposed any Commonwealth grant to the Child Emigration Society in 1922. L J H wrote to the Chairman of the Commission, 26 May 1927:

Prior to the decision of the Commonwealth Government in 1922 to contribute £10,000 over a period of five years, I reported, as did my predecessor, that from the purely migration point of view the scheme was not economical and on a per capita basis would be more costly than any other migration scheme.

There is a useful precis of the several Governments' financial arrangements with Fairbridge over the years, and much correspondence as to whether the grant should be continued, and if so, on what terms. In the end, the Prime Minister decided to continue the maintenance subsidy for one year from 31 October 1927, pending a further review. However, parallel with this discussion over maintenance payments were plans to take more children at the farm school. The Fairbridge Secretary wrote to the Development and Migration Commission, 13 December 1927:

As a result of discussions with Sir Arthur Lawley, it was definitely decided to increase the accommodation at the farm school to take 300 children necessitating the expenditure of approximately £10,700.

In 1928, T H Garrett made a comprehensive report on the voluntary agencies introducing assisted migrants; that on the Child Emigration Society (Fairbridge) is included, dated 16 May 1928. It includes the following:

Ninety-five per cent of the children are Church of England… a woman after care officer was appointed recently… aim not to antagonise employers but to look after the interests of the children… there is friction between the Perth and London Committees… the London Committee insists on certain control over staff appointments.

The file includes various list of child migrants, their ages, dates of birth, date of arrival, etc.

A436, 1946/5/597 part 1C
Fairbridge Farm School, 1929–35 [283 pages]
This is a large file focusing on 1929–31, containing correspondence with the Premier's Department, the Prime Minister, the Department of Land and Surveys, and the Development and Migration Commission regarding Commonwealth and State accounts and subsidies, annual reports (1928 and 1929), agreements between the Child Emigration Society and the British Government, minutes of relevant Development and Migration Commission meetings, balance sheets, copies of ministerial memoranda, notes of meetings and discussions, requisitions and nominations, details of accommodation and individual children at the farm school. The selection issue and the intellectual capacity of some of the children surfaced. There are press cuttings and photographs of arrivals of some child migrants.
A436, 1946/5/597 part 2
Fairbridge Farm School Maintenance of Children. Claim for Commonwealth Portion, 1921 [1 page]
One page only, consisting of eight photos of housing at the Fairbridge Farm School, Pinjarra, WA and groups of Fairbridge children – all taken from the Western Mail, 8 September 1921.
A436, 1946/5/1831
Representations by Dr B Attlee-Hunt 'Unsatisfactory Health of children introduced by Fairbridge Farm School, Western Australia', 1944–47 [12 pages]
This contains a long, handwritten letter, by Dr Attlee-Hunt to the Director-General, Department of Health, from a Japanese prisoner of war camp towards the end of hostilities. Attlee-Hunt wrote of events at Pinjarra during the late 1930s, some seven to eight years previously, when he was involved in assessing certain Fairbridge children as suitable immigrants for Australia. Dr J H L Cumpston, the Director-General, eventually passed the letter to Arthur Calwell, who sought the comments of his departmental officers. The departmental reply was defensive, suggesting that screening at Australia House was much improved since those days.
A436, 1946/5/4010
Fairbridge Farm School – Molong – NSW, 1937–47 A436, 1948/5/57
Image 6: At work on the Fairbridge Farm School.

Image 6: At work on the Fairbridge Farm School.
NAA: A1200, L17146
Enlarge image - View image gallery

Series: A445
Quantity: 22.5 metres
Recorded by: 1951–55 Department of Immigration (CA 51)
Fairbridge Farm School, Molong NSW Part II, 1947–50 [c.200 pages]

On 10 June 1947, the Principal at Fairbridge Farm School, Molong, NSW wrote to Sir Tasman Heyes: 'It was indeed a pleasure to meet you and Mrs Heyes and show you some of the activities of the Farm School'. He spoke of renovations and developments costing £13,250 and added that 'the Council very much appreciates your offer of assistance in this program which is absolutely necessary'. There are a number of news cuttings from which it is possible to follow Fairbridge developments. A copy of the architect's plans for the renovations, and much supporting correspondence on their funding is included. There is also considerable duplication of key letters and memoranda. On the human side, Mr N Lamidey, CMO in London wrote to Heyes, 9 June 1948 regarding the health of prospective child migrants and the impossibility of imposing too high standards if numbers were to come. He added:

A desperate position exists in the UK at present regarding tonsil operations… children would be directed to Canada (if we are too demanding)… infantile paralysis in the UK in epidemic form… a proportion of the children, including some from Fairbridge Farm have signs of old rickets, but no active cases have been accepted. If the medical standard is raised the flow of child migrants to Australia may be depleted seriously.

A copy of the 'Deed on Mortgage' between the Fairbridge Farm Society, NSW and the Commonwealth and a 1948 brochure on the Molong establishment are among the papers. In March 1949, the Secretary of the Farm School was able to announce that he had received:

on behalf of Goldsbrough Mort & Co… a cheque for £15,000… a gift… to commemorate the centenary of the Company's association with the pastoral industry in Australia.

On 4 April 1949, Fairbridge advised Immigration Minister, Arthur Calwell, that 'the Company had decided to erect four new cottages at Molong' with its substantial donation. He added 'we have unequalled conditions to offer the children'.

A445, 133/2/11
Fairbridge Farm School, Pinjarra, WA, 1946–50 [c.200 pages]

This commences with a copy of the booklet: The Kingsley Fairbridge Farm School, Western Australia. Constitutions and Rules. Much of the material concerns tensions and their resolution between the British Child Emigration Society and its sister organisation in Western Australia. The CMO, Perth wrote to Heyes, 20 September 1946:

No children have been sent from England since 1938. The only connection between the London and WA Councils is that… the London office, which is really a section of the Oversea Settlement Committee, is supposed to supply the necessary finance for the maintenance etc. of the children… friction between the two committees purely over finance. No money for maintenance has been received from England since 1942.

On 22 October 1946, Mr A Nutt wrote a memorandum on the Fairbridge situation to the CMO after consulting the British High Commission over Fairbridge problems:

Trouble arose over the insistence of the London body that it should appoint the Principal of the Pinjarra Farm school and other staff… personalities not principles (is at stake). The position is further complicated by the fact that the Council in WA is a separate legal entity… impasse… the UK grant to capital expenditure on the Fairbridge school stands at about £35,000… a showdown may be required.

Meanwhile the Minister for Lands and Immigration in Perth stressed that Fairbridge was 'highly regarded by the Government and people of the state', but he appointed a Committee to investigate the affairs of the school as child migration was recommencing after the war. Numerous news cuttings illustrate the course of events counterpointing the voluminous correspondence. In an attempt to place matters in order, a four-man group from the London Fairbridge organisation arrived in Australia in October 1947. They were Sir Charles Hambro, the Earl of Scarborough, Colonel Harry Logan and Mr C Wilberforce. Major government department reports clarify the situation. The concluding folios deal with the appointment of a new Perth Committee, the legal reorganisation of the Fairbridge Farm School property, the plans to renovate much of the Pinjarra plant and the arrival of the first postwar child migrants. There is a copy of the Fairbridge Farm School Act, 1948 passed by the Western Australian Parliament.

A445, 133/2/12
Fairbridge Farm School, Pinjarra, Western Australia, 1950–51 [c.200 pages]

Much of this concerns proposals for substantial additions and renovations to the farm school plant at Pinjarra and negotiations with governments for the two-thirds subsidy to assist with payment. The Under Secretary, Department of Lands and Immigration, Perth wrote to Heyes, 9 March 1950:

The Principal considers that to house 83 children now in residence or "on the water" an additional six (6) cottages would have to be renovated.

There were only 42 children in residence at that date. The Chief Migration Officer, Australia House, Mr N W Lamidey supported financial support for Fairbridge:

there will be no difficulties at all in fulfilling all the nominations for Fairbridge children… The Society has expressed considerable anxiety over the question of accommodation for the children… The Fairbridge Society seems to be in a position to maintain a steady flow of child migrants during the immediate foreseeable future.

There is correspondence over claims for equipment allowance, renovations, arrival of children from Britain and the renovations, whose estimated cost was £83,504. As is common in Fairbridge files, there are useful newspaper cuttings to illustrate the correspondence and chart developments over time. There is also some evidence of the 'Intelligence of Child Migrants' controversy among the latter folios. The British children at Pinjarra were intelligence-tested; the results were said to confirm that the overall profile placed the children as slightly duller than a comparable group of Australian youngsters, but overall satisfactory.

A445, 133/2/63
Fairbridge Farm School, Molong NSW – Part III, 1953 A445, 133/2/132
Fairbridge Farm School, Pinjarra Western Australia, 1951–54 [c.300 pages]

Much of this concerns the renovations, additions and repairs to the Fairbridge facilities at Pinjarra after the visit of the English representatives and the recommencement of child migration. The property had become run-down during the long war years. The new Honorary Secretary, W E Aspinall, wrote to the Under Secretary Lands and Immigration, 1 May 1948:

There are 18 cottages which will require to be altered in order to bring them to a state comparable to English standards as mentioned by Rev. J H Litten (NCH) who visited Fairbridge some time ago… the work on the 18 cottages would cost £60,000.

There is a copy of the document, 'Income & Expenditure Accounts with Balance Sheet and Supporting Schedules for the Year ended 31st December 1949'. However, there were delays and with building costs rising rapidly, proposed renovations were estimated at £91,000 by 1951 when Fairbridge was negotiating with State and Commonwealth Governments for the two-thirds building subsidy. The Immigration Department, irritated at the cost, stressed to the Department of Lands in Perth that 'it is essential that expenditure of this nature should be confined to bare essentials'. Over time, most of the renovations were approved, the endless bureaucratic delays adding to costs in an inflationary atmosphere. Meanwhile, children continued to arrive, and after a major inspection at Pinjarra, Mr F Mather reported, 16 July 1951:

The suggestions of the (Review) Committee concerning education and employment were approved. The various unions have agreed to assist in finding apprenticeships for suitable boys and will subsidise wages where they are insufficient to cover board and residence and permit the boy to retain 20/- per week for clothing and incidental expenditure.

There are news cuttings illustrating developments, but fewer than in some Fairbridge files. Early in 1952, John Moss visited Fairbridge and his report stressed, inter alia, the principal difficulty of the institutions, gaining and retaining suitable staff:

It is very difficult to obtain suitable house mothers and in practice there is no choice… very isolated rural area… in the present circumstances it is unlikely that a better type of house mother will be obtainable… the lack of attention to some children is not satisfactory… I understand that it is not at all unusual for a house mother to stay less than six months and most of them have been there for less than twelve months… the cottage homes system is dependent on obtaining satisfactory staffs.

Some time after Moss's visit a new principal was appointed at Pinjarra and various reports for 1952–53 suggest a general improvement at the institution. There are six black-and-white photos of Fairbridge Pinjarra life in an envelope towards the end of the file.

A445, 133/2/64
Fairbridge Farm School – Molong – Part 2, 1950–53 [c.250 pages]

There are copies of the 'Annual Report(s) and Balance Sheet(s), Fairbridge Farm School, New South Wales' for the years 1949 and 1950 and feature articles on Molong in the Western Stock and Station Journal, 19 February 1951 and the Sydney Morning Herald, 23 September 1952. Much of the material concerns planned renovations to the Molong plant and negotiations with governments for the building subsidy. The correspondence reveals communication problems between governments and the essentially Honorary Council members of the organisations, in this case, Fairbridge Molong (via Orange, NSW). After months of negotiation, Mr F L Parr, the Senior Investigation Officer, summarised the situation, 17 November 1952, to Sir Tasman Heyes:

I visited Sydney to discuss with the State authorities the problems associated with the claims lodged by the Fairbridge Farm School and the United Protestant Association… in lengthy conferences… Fairbridge have gone ahead and incurred considerable expenditure on buildings and furniture without advising either the State or Commonwealth. [Their Secretary] admitted that he thought that both Governments would automatically contribute on a third basis towards any work carried out… the UPA has already purchased considerable quantities of furniture… the State Government has not got sufficient funds to meet present commitments for child migrants.

The long negotiations and bureaucratic delays were taking place as building costs were rising rapidly, and in December 1952, Fairbridge sent a representative of their Council to Canberra to explain the difficult financial situation the association faced. In the background, governments were more aware than many of the voluntary organisations that there were fewer and fewer children available in Britain for migration and therefore, governments did not want to spend more than absolutely necessary on the institution's facilities.

A445, 133/2/77
Series: PP9/1
Quantity: 20 metres
Recorded by: 1945–50: Department of Immigration, WA Branch (CA 962)
Fairbridge Farm School – Government Financial assistance, Buildings, etc. Pinjarra, 1948–51 [34 pages]

In the first folio, Mr R W Brownlie, Chairman of Governors, Fairbridge Farm School requests financial assistance from the Lands and Immigration Department, WA for renovations at the Pinjarra property, some £3,000 to renovate six cottages and Fairbridge House. The permission was granted readily, but subsequently there were complications. The Deputy Crown Solicitor advised the CMO, Perth, 5 August 1949:

… that the WA body is in the process of being merged in the English body known as Fairbridge Farm School (Inc.). The State Act, No 35 of 1948, entitled Fairbridge Farm School Act, 1948 provides for the eventual vesting of all the assets of the local body in the London concern, and in the near future… the WA Society will cease to function.

The formalities to make the money available occupy some correspondence and there is a copy of the Agreement between the Commonwealth and the Fairbridge Society over the monies for renovations. Progress was slow: the first 20 boys left Britain on 17 October 1950 when an inspector reported 'the present housing conditions are dubious at best'. However, the UK Board wished to fill Pinjarra by the end of 1951. The remainder of the correspondence refers to satisfactory completion of the renovations and payment for them.

PP6/1, 1949/H/2752
Fairbridge Farm School – Inspection and Progress Reports, 1948–50 PP6/1, 1949/H/2708
Fairbridge Farm School – Immigration facilities, 1946–51 PP6/1, 1947/H/1595
Series: A659
Quantity: 101.25 metres
Recorded by: 1939: Department of the Interior [I] (CA 27); 1939–45: Department of the Interior [II] (CA 31)
Fairbridge Farm Schools – Migration during the war, 1940 [21 pages]
The first item is correspondence from the British High Commission to the Department of the Interior, 12 March 1940 which advises that Fairbridge has 123 children recruited prior to the outbreak of war, and are maintaining them in difficult circumstances in England. Fairbridge wish to distribute the children among their farm schools in Canada and Australia. Will the Commonwealth accept 56 children and grant the usual maintenance payments? This was agreed, but as 'all regular sailings to Australia are cancelled' the children will have to be sent via Canada. There is a cutting from the Herald (Melbourne), 27 August 1940, that the children have arrived in New Zealand, and another from the Sydney Morning Herald, 2 September, that the Fairbridge party has arrived in NSW and will be placed at Molong. There is material regarding the abduction of one of the child migrants from Molong by his uncle, the arrest of the uncle, the return of the boy and the subsequent trial and conviction.
A659, 1943/1/3278
Fairbridge farm school – Deduction of Commonwealth Subsidy – Annual requisition for children, 1931–38 [c.400 pages]
There is a copy of Fairbridge's 1931 Annual Report and many newspaper cuttings of Fairbridge arrivals and activities during the 1930s. Fairbridge arrivals continued during the Depression at around 70 children per year. In some ways the apogee of the Fairbridge reputation was reached in 1937 when at the Annual General Meeting in London, Mr R G Casey referred to the farm schools performing 'a great imperial task' and Lord Hartington, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Dominions, averred that 'The British Empire is the only hope for the preservation of civilisation'. A major theme in the file is the discussion over appropriate intelligence standards among the young Fairbridge children. There was a constant stream of young people being repatriated to the UK as unsuitable. In 1937, a memorandum refers to 35 children being sent back to England 'over the last five years'. The reasons cited included: 'sub-normal', 'moral defect', 'moral weakness', 'had an illegitimate child', 'several stigmata of degeneration', 'strong anti-social tendencies' and 'epilepsy'. In the discussion over repatriation of certain children, Mr A E Stowe, the Secretary in Perth mentioned some of the organisations who had placed the children with Fairbridge. These included: the Public Assistance Authorities, West Hartlepool, the Manchester Boys and Girls Refuge, the Middlemore homes, the Wandsworth, London Borough, Care Committee and Barnardo's. There is some correspondence over the establishment of the Lady Northcote Farm School on Fairbridge lines at Glenmore, via Bacchus Marsh, Victoria. On 29 August 1935, the Chairman of the Fairbridge Farm Schools, Inc. in London announced the opening of an office of the society in Newcastle 'to bring the benefits of the Farm Schools to many of the children of the distressed parts of Northumberland and Durham'. Since the establishment of the Australian venture, to 31 December 1935, 1 076 children had arrived at Pinjarra, 844 boys and 232 girls.
A659, 1945/1/505
Series: A446
Quantity: 3346.4 metres
Recorded by: 1953–74: Department of Immigration (CA 51)
Visit to Australia of Major-General Hawthorn, Director and Secretary of the Fairbridge Society, 1965–67 [c.150 pages]
General Hawthorn succeeded Mr W R Vaughan as Fairbridge Director in 1964 and soon afterwards planned a trip to inspect the Society's work in Australia. There are details included from the Minister's briefing notes: the 'One-Parent', and 'Two-Parent' schemes, the financial assistance to Fairbridge and a brief summary of the Society's development in Australia. Since 1949, some 416 unaccompanied children had arrived at Pinjarra under the Society's auspices, plus 196 under the two recently developed schemes. Since 1947, some 365 children had been received at Molong, together with an additional 80 youngsters under the 'One-Parent' and 'Two-Parent' schemes. There are details of the Society's recent purchases at Draper's Hall in Adelaide and Tresca in northern Tasmania. In a departmental memorandum dated 27 July 1964, Mr F C Castle noted that 'the original purpose for which the Fairbridge Society was established has almost disappeared'. The file includes the itinerary of General Hawthorn's visit and reports of meetings with officials. General Hawthorn visited Australia both in 1966 and 1967 and there are details of these visits along the same lines. There is a four-page summary of the situation Fairbridge faced with numbers dropping rapidly, dated May 1967.
A446, 1964/46181
Image 6: At work on the Fairbridge Farm School.

Image 6: At work on the Fairbridge Farm School.
NAA: A1200, L17146
Enlarge image - View image gallery

Image 7: At work on the Fairbridge Farm School.

Image 7: At work on the Fairbridge Farm School.
NAA: A1200, L17161
Enlarge image - View image gallery

Series: A461
Quantity: 143.82 metres
Recorded by: 1934–50: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Fairbridge Farm School, 1921–28 [283 pages]
This relates to financial arrangements between the Fairbridge Farm School at Pinjarra, Western Australia, and the state and Federal governments.
A461, C349/1/7 part 1
Fairbridge Farm School, 1928–41 [413 pages]

This file contains requisitions, advice of approvals for the introduction of children and correspondence relating to the payment of Government subsidies for the maintenance of children at the Fairbridge Farm Schools. There are also press cuttings, extracts from Hansard, copies of agreements with governments, various other letters, some regarding the loan of equipment from the Department of the Army and memoranda relating to the schools. There is a memorandum from the Development and Migration Commission (DMC) for the Minister concerning the finances of the farm school, which had been granted a subsidy in 1922 against the advice of the DMC. Senator G J Pearce was anxious to end the subsidy as the Fairbridge Society 'is not a migration work, but a Child Welfare work which is not within the functions of the Commonwealth'. During the Depression there were (unsuccessful) attempts to terminate the subsidy. A DMC memorandum dated 7 April 1930 stated:

Similar subsidies are not paid to other Australian institutions which manifestly should take precedence over an institution like Fairbridge… but £40,000 has been sunk into the plant.

The Prime Minister's Department wrote to the Premier of Western Australia:

There have been repeated representations from the Clontarf orphanage, also located in your state, for a Commonwealth subsidy… it is increasingly difficult to justify the refusal of such request in view of the attitude adopted with regard to the Fairbridge Farm School… obvious inconsistencies.

There is a major report on the Fairbridge Farm – fifteen pages plus appendices – by Mr T H Garrett, 1928.

A461, C349/1/7 part 2
Fairbridge Farm School, Extension to States other than Western Australia, 1935–40 [47 pages]

In the mid-1930s, the (NSW) Association of Rhodes Scholars indicated its support for 'the adaptation and extension of the farm school model to other parts of Australia'. Mr F B Edwards, MLA (Tasmania) wrote to Prime Minister J A Lyons about this matter on 14 September 1935. The first venture would be in New South Wales: 'a strong committee of NSW Rhodes Scholars has been formed… start with 50 boys in 1936… wants an initial grant and per capita subsidy'. Lyons sent the request to the Department of the Interior; the Minister, Mr T Paterson was enthusiastic:

Fairbridge is the finest example of successful migration work.

In 1936, the Inter-Departmental Committee on Migration Policy gave the 'green light' to more farm schools:

Further farm schools on Fairbridge lines should be encouraged and the UK Government should be prepared to make a contribution.

Most of the correspondence involves the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Minister for the Interior and the Taxation Office and concerns the matter of subsidies. There are extracts from Hansard, a Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Migration Policy concerning Fairbridge; references to the support received by Barnardo's Homes and material on farm schools in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.

A461, K349/1/7
This series contains copies of Cabinet papers dating back to 1901.
Series: A6006
Quantity: 9.18 metres
Recorded by: 1976–81: Australian Archives, Centeal Office (CA 1720); 1981–94: Australian Archives, ACT Regional Office (CA 3196)
Fairbridge Farm School Western Australia, 1930 A6006, 1930/04/08
Series: C3939
Quantity: 38.7 metres
Recorded by: 1952–74: Department of Immigration, NSW Branch (CA 957)
Fairbridge Farm Schools – Capital Expenditure, balance sheets, etc, 1948–68 C3939, N1955/25/75209 part 1
Children – child and youth organisations – Fairbridge Farm Schools, 1973
This contains an outline of the NSW Government's subsidy for child migrants being maintained in the state. In 1971–72, there was only one, aged 16, under the care of the Fairbridge Society.
C3939, N1955/25/75209 part 2
Series: PP582/1
Quantity: 5.4 metres
Recorded by: 1965–73 Department of Civil Aviation, Perth (CA 2884)
Fairbridge landing ground, c.1967 PP582/1, 1972/2111
Series: K403
Quantity: 49.56 metres
Recorded by: 1959–73: Department of Immigration, WA Branch (CA 962)
Children – child and youth organisations – Fairbridge – Government financial assistance, c.1959–84 K403, W59/100
Children – child and youth organisations – Fairbridge – general inspections, c.1959–84 K403, W59/101
Series: K47
Quantity: 2986 metres
Recorded by: 1955–74: Department of Immigration, WA Branch (CA 962)
Children general child migration – Fairbridge Farm Society Overseas League Scheme, 1956–61 [48 pages]

This contains material on the development of the Fairbridge ‘One-Parent’ scheme in 1956. Mr W H Vaughan from the London office arrived in Australia to arrange this scheme with Australian authorities. The ‘One-Parent’ scheme involved assisting a widow or deserted wife with children to emigrate to Australia. The Overseas League was willing to arrange employment and accommodation for the mothers while they established themselves in Australia, and during this time Fairbridge (Pinjarra) would maintain and educate the child or children. Sir Tasman Heyes indicated the Government’s approval, 14 November 1956:

It has been agreed that a child shall not be sent until a personal nomination has been arranged for the parent and unless it has been confirmed beforehand that the parent will be acceptable for migration to Australia.

At this time three other Fairbridge leaders arrived in Australia: Lady Dulverton, the Hon. R Wills and the Hon. Aylmer Tryon. The last planned films on Fairbridge activities in Australia. The file includes: the announcement of the ‘One-Parent Scheme’ by Minister for Immigration, Athol Townley, 1 March 1957; a copy of the declaration widows were to sign before placing their children with the Society; and some problems with early cases.

K47, 1959/998
Series: K38
Quantity: 162 metres
Recorded by: 1954–72: Department of Labour and National Service (CA 1761)
Fairbridge Society Family Migration Scheme instructions, (Department of Labour and National Service/Employment and Industrial Relations), 1960–72 [38 pages]
This concerns the Fairbridge Society's 'Two-Parent' Scheme. The idea was that Fairbridge – Molong or Pinjarra – would take and care for the children while the parents were establishing themselves in Australia, and its objective was to assist large working-class families who would not otherwise be acceptable as Commonwealth nominees because they had too many children. The scheme was introduced on a trial basis, for Molong initially in 1960 and within a short time six families had arrived. There is a copy of the document: 'Information for Parents under the Fairbridge Family Scheme'. By 1965, correspondence has arisen over problems with the scheme and families not honouring their agreement with Fairbridge.
K38, 1967/793
Series: A1928
Quantity: 82.71 metres
Recorded by: 1925–49: Department of Health (CA 17)
Request by Children's Farm School Immigration Society of Western Australia for accommodation of children at Woodman's Point Quarantine Station, 1928 [12 pages]
Questions of isolation and quarantine for a party of 115 children sailing to Australia on the Balranald in 1928 were raised and subsequently withdrawn by the Children's Farm School Immigration Society of WA owing to an outbreak of measles. The file contains a list of infectious diseases occurring on immigrant ships from England, 1927, and a Department of Health report on phases of epidemic incidence among child migrants on arrival in Australia.
A1928, 520/32


Chapter 3
Guide to the Records